“I Just Need One Good Sheet to the Numbers”

For prepress managers, “One good sheet to the numbers” is often all they need to help press operators get better results via corrective plate curves. So why is it so hard to get one?  I take a look at that question in this post.

Press operators don’t ask for help a lot. These are usually guys with a lot of techniques to getting a visual match. They are optimists, too. They generally believe that the can “get there” in terms of color matching, no matter how discouraging it looks at first.

So it takes a fairly tough color problem for a press operator to take sheet in hand, call in the prepress guy and say, “Can you help me out with a curve for this?” When the request is finally made, it is too often preceded by a long makeready attempt, tall piles of waste paper, and a series of head-scratching huddles in the viewing booth.

The pressman’s request for a curve is usually countered by a request from the prepress guy: “Do you have a sheet to density?” The answer is often either “No”, or “We had a sheet to density at the start but it wasn’t even close so we tossed it.” or, “Here’s the closest we’ve gotten so far. Can you use this one?”

It usually goes back and forth for a while, with the prepress guy taking his best guess at a corrective curve, the press operator pulling a few more tricks out of his hat, and together, they finally get an acceptable match. And so it goes until next time.

Why is this so hard?

Why is it so difficult for prep to get a sheet to the numbers, and why do press departments so often have to struggle with inadequate plate curves?

  1. It seems clumsy to take time out from a makeready session to set aside a sheet to the numbers that the prepress may or may not eventually do something with.
  2. Press and prep are in different rooms, and this makes communication difficult.
  3. Even if the press operator runs a sheet to density and sets it aside, it’s usually hard to find it when you need it.
  4. Pressmen have so much negative experience “running to the numbers” that they generally prefer to just go for a visual match.
  5. Prepress guys usually don’t have time to do dot-gain measurements of press sheets to figure out if curve adjustments are needed.

Measurements get stuck at the console

Forward-thinking operations have embraced standards-based printing and recognize the need for increased communication of press measurements. Most quality printers strive to establish communications between press and prepress via fingerprint runs, regular meetings or other techniques, but the needed transfer of information from press to prep still tends to lag.

The Missing Link

The missing link in press/prep communications has been a way to get information delivered directly from the press console to the prepress department, with no additional steps and in real time.

The problem has been that even with proper measuring equipment in use, measurement information (density, dot gain, gray balance, spots) tends to get stuck at the end of the press, and moving it out into the prepress department has proved to be a serious challenge.

These communication capabilities do now exist, and are available for printers of all sizes for less than the cost of a new hand-held densitometer.” Every prepress manager and pressroom supervisor can now have instant access to vital data from every measured sheet.

With accurate and instant data for solid primary ink values, overprints, TVI, sheet consistency and gray balance, prepress managers and pressroom supervisors can now make informed decisions and take appropriate action for accurate press-to-proof matching, with no guesswork and no need to beg for “Just one sheet to the numbers.”

I try to keep all my posts informative and product promotion-free. If you are interested in the subject, please check out my other posts and be sure to browse my website for more information on accurate color and effective prep-press collaboration.

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